An elevator pitch is a 30 second summary of you, your business idea and why you feel confident that you can succeed. The phrase was coined from a real life situation, where you find yourself in an elevator with someone you need to impress quickly – before they get off of it. This is why we assume you have 30 seconds or less to sell yourself to them, because chances are you’re not going to the same floor, so one of you will need to get off fairly quickly. You need to, in that short amount of time, capture their attention and get them interested in your idea. This is the embodiment of getting your proverbial foot through the door, and cannot be taken lightly by anyone seeking to be a successful business person.
There are three things to keep in mind when pitching; you must first introduce yourself along with your qualifications, briefly explain your concept and close with a compelling reason as to why you are the best fit for whatever it is you’re informally applying for, be it funding or a partnership for a joint venture. It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and think this is easy, but anyone who’s ever been stumped by the “Tell me about yourself” interview question will understand the need to prepare for this one, and to do so thoroughly.
Who are you? Chances are this is the question that is on the mind of the person you are pitching to. Imagine this – you get invited to a high end networking event where big money players are in attendance. You know that somewhere in that room lies the investor you’ve been dreaming of, and he could be anyone you talk to. Would the first thing out of your mouth then be, “Hi, I’m Tom”? Better lack with that. If you want to catch someone’s attention, “Hello, my name is Tom and I run an investment company” is a hell of a lot more impressive than the former introduction. Keep in mind that you never know who is listening, so your very first words need to draw people’s attention to you.
Now that he knows who you are and what you do, you need to state why it is you’re competent enough to do it. State this as briefly as possible. Remember, this is just the first part of your 30 second presentation – you don’t want to waste time narrating every childhood experience that led you to that moment. Just mention your qualifications. A quick “I have a degree in this and that” should cover it.
Summarize, summarize, summarize. Answer four questions only – what is your idea, why is it viable, how do you plan to make it work and why are you in a competitive position to do so. Do not drift off topic, or try to stuff every statistical figure you’ve ever heard in relation to whatever industry you’re trying to break into in your pitch. A simple “This is my idea, this is why I believe it will work, this is how I plan to execute it and this is why I believe I will succeed” will do. It needs to inspire a response of some sort from them that’s more than just a nod of the head. It needs to contain just enough information to get them curious to hear more, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed by the details.
Closing a deal is the sole purpose of this elevator pitch. Whether you’re hoping to receive funding from whoever you’re speaking to or an introduction to someone else, you need to close your pitch on a high note – with a compelling call to action that draws them further into the story you’re telling, so much so that they feel obliged to help you. You can state what you expect to have achieved in the near future, and mention how it is they can help you get there, be it through a direct investment or an introduction to the right people.
It’s easy to dismiss the importance of this preparation, but when you find out that wildly successful CEOs such as Steve Jobs fired people in the 30 second time span of an elevator ride not once but a minimum of five times, you begin to understand the value of always being prepared.
The confidence needed to successfully pull this off comes from preparation, and lots and lots of practice, preferably in front of a mirror, or before supportive friends and family. The confidence displayed in this pitching process is what makes or breaks the impromptu presentation – you can easily tell apart those who are prepared from those who are fumbling through their speech. Problem is, this directly reflects on the validity of your idea, and helps them gauge just how much you really believe in it. A good pitch can therefore sell an unfinished idea just through the enthusiasm and eloquence you display when talking about it.